This was another week of editing Lens Flare. A couple of interesting things I’ve noticed in my efforts that I thought I’d share.
First, since I wrote this during NaNoWriMo, I can clearly see how I just went full out writing without a lick of editing along the way. Sometimes, the typos (or inadvertent word substitutions) I’ve found make me laugh, if not confuse me. Using homophones for words I wanted to use is a typical mistake, but in other cases, I’m downright puzzled as to what I was trying to say when I wrote it - I mean the word comes out of left field. I usually find reading the paragraph aloud helps me figure out the right word (or words) to help it make sense. It still amuses me as I think to myself what stream of consciousness was I riding when that word popped onto that digital paper.
Second, and something that requires more work, are the plot flaws I mentioned last time. While I outlined this book in pretty extreme detail before I started writing it, I didn’t have it laid out paragraph by paragraph - nor do I think that’s the “right” way to do it, at least for me. But the two plot points that need adjusting are going to take me some time to resolve to my (and the reader’s) satisfaction. Not that this bothers me, mind you - it’s all part of the process.
Work-in-Progress Time: A Grand Delusion
Last year, some writer on Facebook ran a contest to find a guest author to contribute a story to an anthology he was penning. Contestants were given the first sentence and were expected to write a story from there. Here is the line:
Jake Everson woke up one day in St. Bart's and picked up the newspaper to discover he'd died that morning in Spain.
I didn’t think about the plot too much - another one of those where I just started writing - and landed on a drama about two rivals, one of whom took their rivalry way too far. Originally, I called the story “An Interesting Exchange,” but after I was chosen as one of three finalists, the author and his editor asked me to find a different title, so I came up with “A Grand Delusion.”
While my story wasn’t chosen for the anthology, I liked it so much that I decided to write a screenplay based on it (with the same title). It’s an interesting change writing a screenplay based on one of my short stories. For one thing, I have so much of it written already, at least for a first draft. I think the story has enough surprises and plot to give the whole drama enough “legs” to make it a feature film.
Ideas - Where Do They Come From?
So as you’ve seen in my blog posts, ideas don’t typically have a single point of origin, at least for me. Sometimes they can be a single line, as with “A Grand Delusion.” Other times, it’s just a title that triggers an entire plot. Other places I’ve gotten ideas from:
- Overheard comments
- News headlines
- “What if” questions
- Dreams (mine or from others)
- Song lyrics
- Human interest pieces
- Science articles
- Other stories, movies or books (without plagiarizing, of course!)
Word Count vs. Clock
Discipline is one of the biggest challenges writers have to master. We all lament there aren’t enough hours in the day, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, we’d have to admit we fritter away many hours every week that could be invested in writing (or editing, marketing, querying, etc.). Every time you turn around, there’s another article about what’s the best way to achieve that discipline.
There’s one school of thought that swears by the word count method - write until your word count for the day is met, then you’re free to do other things (presumably writing-related things, but they never say). Start small, they say, then increase the word count until you get to a number that you’re comfortable with and more importantly, that you know you can do without burning yourself out. After all, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon (unless you’d doing ScriptFrenzy or NaNoWriMo, then it’s definitely a sprint!).
Then there’s the other school that swears that the clock method is the only way to go. Take a kitchen timer (or the timer function on your smart phone, your pick), set it for a duration, then write until the alarm goes off. Move on to another task - editing another piece, let’s say, or reward yourself somehow - then set the timer for another session and so on. The idea is to write without stopping to edit or puzzle over a particular word or phrase, but rather to muscle through and save the editing for the period designated for editing, and in this way, get as much down on paper as possible within the time constraints.
I’ve actually employed both of these methods, depending on my mood and circumstances. However, I also use another method. Simply put, I lay out what I want to get done for the day - write a chapter, a number of scenes, a first draft of a story - and keep my head down until I achieve that goal. I typically note the time I start and end so I have an idea as to my speed in case I need to schedule specific slots of time for subsequent chapters, scenes or drafts. But that’s just me - your mileage may vary - but consider the task list method.
Finding what works best for you is probably one of the most important things a writer should strive to discover in order to be successful. You may not know until you experiment over several months (or years) or you may evolve from one way to another over time. Remember, your methods for writing can be as unique as your voice. No matter what you do, just keep writing!
Someone recently asked me what contests I think are most worthwhile. The short story contests sponsored by Writer’s Digest, The Writer or other writer-oriented publications (on- or off-line) are all valuable venues to help showcase your work and get your name out there. On the screenplay side, there’s Scriptapalooza or BlueCat (or contests sponsored by screenplay-oriented magazines, both on- and off-line). I recommend you do your research before you enter anything, however - go with a legitimate organization that has a reputation of actually awarding prizes instead of just advertising that they will.
No matter which contests you enter, they’re worth the price of admission, so to speak - the entry fee is nominal - because even if you don’t win, you’ll have the opportunity to have someone else read your work and depending on the contest, you could get objective feedback from a professional. If you’re worried about rejection, there’s only one piece of advice I can give you: get over it. Unless you’re one of the superstars of the publication world, you’re going to get rejected much more frequently than you’ll hear “yes” over the course of your writing career. It’s all part of the learning process, no matter what feedback you get. Don’t let the fear of failure - or success - get in your way of being a writer!
Topics for my next post:
- Complete my description of my works-in-progress
- Right brain stimulation
- The period controversy